Are NASCAR suspensions for lost wheels the right call?
On Wednesday, NASCAR suspended six individuals — two crew chiefs, two tire changers and two tire carriers — because of a pair of botched pit stops at Dover International Speedway last weekend.
One involved Kyle Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the other Chase Briscoe’s Brad Keselowski Racing Ford in the Camping World Truck Series.
In both instances, the respective crews badly bollixed their pit stops and failed to get the lug nuts on. When Briscoe and Busch pulled out of their pit stalls, immediately they each lost a tire.
There is no ambiguity whatsoever about the NASCAR rule governing such matters, which reads, “loss of wheel(s) due to improper installation will result in a mandatory minimum four-race suspension of the crew chief and the tire changer and tire carrier of the lost wheel(s)."
That’s about as simple, clear cut and direct as a rule gets.
There’s only one little problem in some people’s minds — having a tire fall off after a pit stop wasn’t the impetus for the rule.
No, the rule came about because some enterprising crew chiefs last year were only tightening three lug nuts per wheel, and reportedly there were some were only doing two lug nuts on occasion.
This draconian penalty was created by NASCAR after drivers complained that running with fewer than five lug nuts was unsafe.
The drivers complained; NASCAR reacted with a harsh penalty designed to prevent crew chiefs from playing games with lug nuts.
Only that isn’t what happened in the cases of Busch and Briscoe.
Those were just simple human error by pit crews. There was nothing sneaky or nefarious about either situation.
So should the harsh rule apply in circumstances in which it really wasn’t meant to address in the first place?
Some people will doubtless think the answer is no.
I’m not one of them.
NASCAR has taken a lot of heat over the years for trying to interpret rules and factor in motivation and other circumstances. And when they do some fans scream bloody murder on social media saying it’s proof that NASCAR plays favorites.
Not this time.
NASCAR has a rule.
NASCAR followed the letter of the law.
You can hate the rule, but the fact is, drivers wanted tougher rules so they didn’t have to race on two or three lug nuts.
NASCAR obliged, and this is the result.
Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.